As a born and bred city girl, I didn’t exactly grow up in nature. My major experiences with nature were limited to beach trips and occasional visits to the park.
We did have our own garden at home, though, and let me tell you, I ran that tiny green patch ragged. I plucked flowers from the bushes and skinned my knees climbing our lone tree.
Even as a child, I knew just how joyful being out in nature could make me. Then, when I became a fully-grown adult, I began discovering just how much nature could teach me about life.
Here are ten lessons we can learn from observing nature. They are powerful, so I hope they’ll encourage you to be out in the wild more.
Let’s dive in!
1) Adapt = Survive
Do you feel like you’ll break when the tough times come? Don’t worry, you won’t. You’re a wondrous being, just like anything you’ll find in nature.
Consider the lowly bamboo – a simple, nondescript stick of wood. And yet, it’s so flexible that no matter how furious the wind is, it won’t break.
It merely bends and sways with the storm instead of fighting it. Its strength doesn’t come from being heavy and rigid but from its incredible flexibility.
And consider my favorite example of adaptation – the bioluminescent creatures under the water. I used to be on a rowing team, and we’d often start training in our local bay in the wee hours of the morning.
My favorite part was seeing the bay light up in the dark, thanks to the plankton in the water who lit up the water with their fascinating green light.
You too can be just as flexible as the bamboo. You can be your own light just like a marine creature. That’s how you get through life’s challenges.
And you know what? Those hard times will pass because…
2) Everything has its own time
That’s right, it might seem like the tough times will go on forever, but they won’t. Because that’s the nature of life – it’s all transient.
You see it in the way the seasons change. The barren landscape of winter eventually gives way to vibrant spring flowers. Summer heat simmers down until we feel the snap of cool autumn air.
Similarly, the tides ebb and flow. I see this every time I go to the beach. One day we can’t swim because the current is too strong, and then the next morning, the shore is so far because the tide has turned.
The point is, nothing stays the same. Everything has its moment and then transforms.
So hold on to this lesson from nature. While the challenges might seem endless now, they too shall pass.
And conversely, if life is good, cherish it. Because you never know how long you’ll have them. That’s why it’s important to be mindful and present every single day.
3) Everything has its own purpose
If you’re being mindful and observing closely, another thing you’ll learn from nature is how everything serves its own function.
My own garden teaches me this. The bees hop and move pollen from flower to flower, ensuring the constant production of seeds.
The earthworms in my flower beds wriggle through and create pockets of air so that the plants can receive enough oxygen.
Even the fungi in the soil have a purpose – to break down fallen leaves and other organic matter to give me nutrient-rich soil.
Just like these creatures, you too have your own purpose in this world. You might be feeling inadequate and unsure of what you’re good at, but trust me, you have a definite role in the world.
You just need to open your eyes to your own beauty and see how much you can contribute to society if you so wish.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you’re only one person, your actions don’t matter. They absolutely do, because…
4) Everything is connected
Again, I’d like to talk about bees here. Did you know that these tiny creatures are in danger of extinction?
We often see them as little pests to swat away or flee from, but a world without bees is a world in a food crisis.
With their capacity for propagating crops, we stand to go hungry if bees disappear from the face of the earth.
That’s how connected everything is – one thing leads to another, then another, then another.
Nature is the perfect example of the symbiotic relationship we have with one another – humans, animals, plants all together.
Each one of us matters, it’s that simple. That said, it’s wise to be thoughtful in what we do, because as the next lesson from nature shows…
5) What goes around comes around
There is no better example for this than the water cycle.
Water evaporates from our oceans, forms clouds, and returns to the earth as rain, snow, or other forms of precipitation. Which then evaporates again in the air.
It’s a constant give-and-take process that has sustained our planet for eons.
Human experience is pretty much the same.
For instance, I once had a co-worker who was quite stingy with help. Whenever someone asked him for help, he’d say, “That’s not my job.” Or he’d give some excuse as to why he couldn’t pitch in.
Naturally, that attitude did him no favors in the work-friend department. People quickly got that he wasn’t a team player and that we shouldn’t ask him for any favors.
That’s why, when the time came that he was the one needing help, he couldn’t get any. One by one, people turned him down, with some even throwing his own words back at him.
It’s also a great example of this next truth…
6) You reap what you sow
You wouldn’t plant tomato seeds and expect to harvest carrots, would you? Or plant them on rocky soil and expect them to grow, right?
It’s common sense, and yet, how much do we really think about the consequences of our actions?
That co-worker above sowed ill will, so that’s what he got right back.
You can apply this truth to almost anything else in life. It underscores the importance of preparation, effort, and intention in determining outcomes.
Think about it – how can you expect to be promoted if you keep turning up late at the office? And on top of that, slack off on your job?
How can you expect to have a successful business if you don’t do your research about production, marketing, and management?
If you want a good harvest, prepare well. Sow good seeds. Put in the work and you’ll achieve success.
7) Let go of the past to make way for the new
Why do trees shed their leaves? Why do flower petals wilt and fall off? Why do snakes shed their skin?
To be renewed.
To grow more.
In the same way, letting go of our past – be it old beliefs, habits, or experiences – can pave the way for fresh perspectives and new beginnings.
Remember, nature is in a constant state of evolution. As we should be, if we want to grow.
In fact, even just a tiny change can jumpstart a whole new you.
8) Small shifts can be powerful
Does being just a bit more attentive make you a better partner? Do those few minutes you now take each day to meditate make any difference?
You might think you’re not making any progress, but trust me, you are.
Look at how the small shifts in nature end up being powerful catalysts for change.
Did you know that just a slight increase in sea temperatures, often just by 1-2°C, can cause the death of vast coral reefs? Which then triggers a domino reaction that affects many marine species?
That’s a sobering thought, isn’t it? But also inspiring, if you consider it in the context of baby steps towards self-improvement.
I’ll say it again – every little thing you do counts. Whether or not it counts towards the positive or the negative, that’s up to you.
9) Darkness and light need to exist together
Now, let’s talk about the night sky – one of my favorite elements in nature. It never ceases to fill me with a sense of both smallness and expansiveness.
I think what I find most profound about it is the way darkness and light exist together. You can’t have one without the other. You can’t see the stars and the moon. You can’t see the majesty of the aurora borealis.
In the same way, it’s often the challenges, the tough times, and the moments of doubt that make the joyful and beautiful moments stand out.
Without the lows, we wouldn’t appreciate the highs. So take each of them as they are and try to see how they complement one another.
10) Just be
Finally, nature teaches us to be content with who we are.
The book “The Mixed-Up Chameleon” might have as its main character a chameleon who wished it could be like other animals, but real chameleons don’t do that.
Real chameleons simply change colors to do what it’s gotta do, whether it’s to attract a mate, adjust body temperature, or hide from a predator.
Perhaps this is why I love being in nature so much. I am simply reminded of the power of just being. Of not having to do anything. I can take a breath and remember who I am without all the noise of the world.
I hope you see it that way, too. I hope this spurs you on to take regular breaks in nature and feel empowered by it just as I am.